Big increase in shark sightings on WA coast

Angela PownallThe West Australian
A 3m Tiger Shark is spotted off Quinns beach.
Camera IconA 3m Tiger Shark is spotted off Quinns beach. Credit: Surf Life Saving WA

Almost 10 sharks have been spotted or detected every day along WA’s metropolitan and south coasts in the second half of this year.

Latest data from Surf Life Saving WA revealed 1624 sharks were reported between July 1 and December 23.

SLSWA aviation services manager Peter Scott says shark sightings have increased from last year, especially in the metropolitan area.

“Certainly in the metro area, it’s up significantly,” Mr Scott said.

“In December, there’s been a hive of activity around the City Beach and Floreat area more than previous years with tiger sharks. There’s some anecdotal evidence that people are targeting them by creating a food source coming into that area.”

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As the weather hots up this weekend and more people are expected to take to the water, SLSWA is warning people to swim at patrolled beaches and listen for shark alerts.

Mr Scott said people seemed undeterred by the increased number of shark sightings and had been packing out beaches over the festive season.

“It shows that the system is working. We are seeing them and being able to warn people,” he said. Most reports were tagged sharks — 1231 of them — detected by the network of 309 acoustic receivers, including 25 satellite-linked devices, along WA’s coast.

But only 860 sharks, including 220 great whites, have been acoustically tagged and are estimated to make up only 5 per cent of all sharks.

Data from the acoustic receivers does not reveal how far the shark was from shore when detected.

When a distance from shore was determined, most sharks — 141 — were 50m or less from shore. A further 58 were between 50m and 100m from shore and 33 were between 101m and 200m offshore. The top locations for sightings by the aerial shark patrol were City Beach, Cottesloe and Floreat, with five sightings at each place.

The helicopter crew spotted more sharks in the South West — 15 at Quindalup and 11 each at Bunker Bay and Castle Rock.

The crews issued a direct warning from the helicopter, by alarm or loudspeaker, to people in the water that they were in imminent danger because a shark was close by on 40 occasions over the past six months.

This happened most often at Cottesloe (five times), Bunker Bay (four times) and three times each at City Beach, Bunker Bay, Meelup and Quindalup.

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